Okay so the Pirates have had a rough go for a bit here. Losing two series now to the hated Brewers (including one brawl), and a below .500 record is not what anyone expected coming into this season. Normally, I would be in full panic mode, but I think it is a bit early for that.
First, the Pirates are scoring runs. This is not something we were very good at last year, but this year we are hitting the long ball and scoring in bunches. Even new Pirate Ike Davis has been in on the hitting. Walker and Alvarez are doing some real power shots, and McCutchen is breaking out of some early season slowness. The overall average numbers are less than stellar, but some of that will come up as the year goes along. And let us not forget that Gregory Polanco could easily upgrade the Snider/Tabata position in the outfield making the hitting even better. I also think Jordy Mercer will get his bat going, at least a little better than he has.
Second, bullpens often take time to settle in, even if they are almost totally intact from last year. I do believe that is what is happening here. Yes, Grilli has blown three saves, but two of them were on Ryan Braun home runs and there is no reason to believe that those were not aided by roids. I am only half joking. At the very least, Grilli should not be viewed as totally incompetent. He is more like a Lee Smith closer than a Rivera closer. Grilli is going to make your stomach go in knots before actually getting the save and some blown saves are bound to happen, especially with long balls since Grilli is a power strikeout guy. Where Bryan Morris fits in needs to be established and if Jenamar Gomez is going to be as good as last year is up in the air. But the Pirates have bullpen help in the minors even after trading Zack Thorton away. There is always Duke Welker. He is a hard throwing guy. Let us not forget the minor league addition of Schlerath this off season. He is doing great in AAA, and has could be a guy to turn to if needed. Jerod Hughes has already gotten a call up, so he might can help. We also still have Vin Mazzarro in the organization as he cleared waivers. The ability to rebuild the bullpen is there if it is needed.
Third, the starters are just going to get better. It is hard to imagine Wandy Rodriguez this bad all year. He was just put on the DL, so that might explain it, but he is hardly this bad. And if he is then he can be upgraded with Jeff Locke or Brandon Crumpton, who will both be better than how bad Rodriguez is right now. Gerrit Cole will have his ups and downs, but he threw a great game the other day, the bullpen just blew it. Lirano will be fine, probably not as good as last year, but fine. Charlie Morton will be okay as well. These guys have been around long enough that you can expect them to return to their average. Right now we can hope Volquez stays above his average, and there is reason to think so because the Pirates have a history of making people better. Even if he falls off in the second half, the aforementioned replacements are going to be there.
We simply have to be better in these close games. We cannot continue to give up so many blown leads. And I don't think we will. So, while I am worried and unhappy right now, I do think we have a lot of reason to be hopeful. We have not had any chance yet to feast on the NL East or seen any west coast teams come in for a visit. We are getting are does of the Reds and Brewers right now. I do think our schedule gets a little better. Stay .500 in April, and I think we will be well into the hunt.
Slightly early gamethread: Taillon faces Arrieta
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